The study revealed a significant gap in girls' knowledge about menstruation and body change during puberty. Many girls described feelings of shame and mentioned "reacting with panic at the sight of their first bleeding, thinking they had a terrible disease, or that they had behaved badly in some way." Although some girls sought out guidance, many girls were "fearful of telling anyone."
"The goal was to learn from girls what puberty-related guidance they felt was needed and then pass on their recommendations to policy makers. A particularly positive aspect of the book project expressed by the girls was the fact that they could learn about puberty on their own without needing to depend on teachers for information, many of whom are male in Tanzania."
Dr. Sommer next focused on developing the book with a seed grant from the Nike Foundation. Dr. Sommer felt strongly about field testing the content with the girls prior to finalizing the publication. "It was essential for the book to be well-grounded in the local context, with illustrations and content that would be satisfactory to parents and teachers, and most importantly, appealing to the appropriate reading level for the target age range of girls (10-14 years old)."
The next steps in the project included dissemination, evaluation, and advocacy for policy change. Many girls reported that the book "gave me the courage of how to talk about this with parents and guardians" and recommended the book to "all girls, especially those who have not reached puberty. The Girl's Book has now been integrated into government level policy in education, water and sanitation, and over 140,000 copies have been distributed. In addition, UNICEF is aiming to raise sufficient funds so that all 1.5 3 million girls within the target age range of 10-14 years across Tanzania have their own copies.
Dr. Sommer notes that the
|Contact: Stephanie Berger|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health